JERUSALEM — A fire broke out today at the King David Hotel, sending hundreds of guests, including a U.S. congressman dressed only in two bath towels, fleeing into the street.
The blaze, which started in a computer room, blackened three accounting offices on the second floor and filled the hotel's lobby with thick smoke. Police said there were no injuries.
Rep. James H. Scheuer (D-N.Y.) was taking a shower when the fire began and had no time to dress. Minutes later he spoke to reporters in the lobby, draped in the towels.
The 66-year-old congressman said he arrived at the hotel two hours before the fire began. His room was on the third floor just above the blaze. "I smelled some smoke and just grabbed a couple of towels and ran to the elevator," he said.
Scheuer said he was on a one-week visit to see relatives and meet with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
A hotel spokeswoman, Fiona Semberg, said the fire appeared to have been caused by an electrical short circuit. Police spokesman Rafi Levy said the possibility of arson was under investigation.
Semberg said about 300 guests were registered at the hotel, many of them American, but some were out when the fire began at 4:15 p.m.
The King David is one of the city's choice hotels and is where most heads of state stay when they visit Jerusalem. In 1946, the hotel, near Jerusalem's old walled city, was bombed by Jewish terrorists in their war against the British rulers of Palestine. Ninety people were killed.